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Phallus indusiatus

[ Basidiomycota > Agaricomycetes > Phallales > Phallaceae > Phallus . . . ]

by Michael Kuo

This amazing pan-tropical stinkhorn features a long and elaborate "skirt." In North America, it is found in the southern provinces of Mexico; northward it is replaced by the short-skirted Phallus duplicatus. Readers who have seen the Discovery Channel's Planet Earth series may remember the stunning time-lapse photography sequences of Phallus indusiatus rising from the ground, then gracefully extending its net-like skirt.

Strictly speaking, Phallus indusiatus should be a fairly large species featuring an ample, white skirt that stretches nearly to the ground, descending from a bell-shaped cap that is pocketed and white (underneath the brown spore slime), along with a smooth, pinkish to whitish volva. The species was originally described from Suriname (Ventenat 1798) and a neotype collection has been designated from Brazil (Cabral et al. 2019). However, many very similar species exist:

  • Phallus moelleri, if it is actually distinct, is separated by its brownish volva and its more foul odor;
  • China's Phallus echinovolvatus has a spiny white volva;
  • Brazil's Phallus squamulosus has a scaly white volva;
  • Brazil's Phallus purpurascens has a large, tightly-pocketed cap and a purplish volva;
  • Brazil's Phallus denigricans is small (about 10 cm high), with a constricted cap and a white volva;
  • South America's Phallus aureolatus features a wrinkled (rather than pocketed) cap, and a pink volva;
  • Asia's Phallus merulinus has a wrinkled, rather than pocketed, cap;
  • Asia's Phallus atrovolvatus has a dark brown to nearly black volva;
  • China's Phallus fuscoechinovolvatus features a strikingly spiny, nearly black volva . . .

. . . and the list above is not exhaustive! Meanwhile there are similar species with colored skirts and/or colored caps, including Phallus cinnabarinus (with a red to orange skirt) and Phallus multicolor (with a somewhat shortened, yellow skirt), Phallus luteus (short yellow skirt, orange cap, brown volva), and Phallus flavidus (small with cap, stem, and skirt yellow to orange).

Have you collected indusiatus-like species of Phallus specimens recently? I would love to study well-documented, preserved collections, in order to make this page more scientific. If you're interested in helping, please send me an email at .

Dictyophora indusiata is a synonym.


Note: The description below is based on the photos sent to me, and on the sources cited below. I have not studied any collections of Phallus indusiatus.

Ecology: Saprobic; growing alone or gregariously in woods, especially in disturbed-ground areas (ditches, paths, road sides, and so on); also common in urban settings; year-round; originally described from Suriname; distributed in South America, Central America, and Mexico; also reported throughout the tropics, nearly world-wide.

Immature Fruiting Body: Like a whitish, brownish, or pinkish "egg"; when sliced revealing the stinkhorn-to-be encased in a gelatinous substance.

Mature Fruiting Body: Cylindric, with a clearly differentiated head structure that sits atop the stem; developing a net-like structure that extends below the head.

Head: Up to about 4 cm high and 4 cm wide; broadly conic or bell-shaped; becoming perforated at the apex, with the perforation surrounded by a sterile whitish "lip"; becoming deeply pitted and pocketed in a reticulate pattern; surface white to creamy, but covered with a thick layer of dark brown spore slime.

Indusium (the "net"): Developing below the bottom rim of the head; eventually extending to the ground and flaring away from the stem; white, sometimes becoming pinkish with old age; with thin dissepiments.

Stem: Up to 20 cm high and 2 cm thick; cylindric; finely pocketed; whitish; hollow; base enclosed in a whitish to pinkish volva; attached to white or pinkish rhizomorphs.

Odor: Unpleasant and strong.

Microscopic Features: Spores 3.5–4 x 1.5–2 µm; elongated-ellipsoid; smooth; hyaline in KOH. Sphaerocysts of the pseudostipe 30–60 µm; subglobose; smooth; hyaline in KOH. Hyphae of the volva 3–7 µm wide; smooth; yellowish; clamp connections present.

REFERENCES: E. P. Ventenat, 1798. (Persoon, 1801; Lloyd, 1909; Cunningham, 1944/1979; Dring, 1964; Arora, 1986; Guzmán, Montoya & Bandala, 1990; Calonge, 2005; Calonge et al., 2005; Kreisel & Hausknecht, 2009; Gogoi & Parkash, 2014; Li et al., 2016; Trierveiler-Pereira et al., 2017; Cabral et al., 2019.)

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Phallus indusiatus
Costa Rica

Phallus indusiatus

Phallus indusiatus

Phallus indusiatus

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Kuo, M. (2022, March). Phallus indusiatus. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site: